By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
West Greene appeared on the road to victory for the first 13 minutes of the game against Johnson County. The rest of the contest would be “memory lane” for the Longhorns and Nightmare on Elm Street for the Buffaloes. The Longhorn nation will remember Nathan Lane’s performance on homecoming night as one of the best ever. The senior speedster rushed for 178 yards and scored four touchdowns while leading the Horns to a 35-7 conference victory before a large crowd inside of Paul McEwen Stadium. Johnson County is now 2-0 in league play and 4-1 overall. West Greene fell to 0-2 in conference and 1-4 overall. Head coach Don Kerley didn’t like the way his team played early but felt like they wore down the opposition in the second half.
“We didn’t start well and turned it over, and we’ve got to get past that,” said Kerley. “I thought our kids played hard from the second quarter. We were able to hit some big plays and Lane had a huge game. I thought our defense played well across the board and the offensive line did a much better job. Anytime you can get a win in conference play you have to be pleased.”
LONGHORNS TRAIL EARLY
Kerley was referring to a costly fumble deep in West Greene territory that set up the Buffaloes only score. Allen Vaughn found the end zone from 21 yards out with 8:16 remaining in the first quarter that gave the visitors a 7-0 lead after Blair Shelton’s extra point. Johnson County nearly dug itself a huge hole after being unable to move the football on its next possession. West Greene drove deep inside the red zone but came away empty-handed. They misfired on a 31-yard field goal attempt allowing the Longhorns a chance at redemption, and they didn’t disappoint.
“We just had too many turnovers and gave up too many big plays,” said West Greene’s head coach Joe Case. “We had a chance to go up by two touchdowns and came away with no points and that hurt. Our kids played hard, and we’re young at a lot of positions, but we’re not making excuses. They’re getting better, but tonight our youth showed. Give credit to Johnson County for making some big plays. They definitely have a lot of speed.”
DEFENSE AND SPECIAL TEAMS STEP UP
The fireworks show began with the defense igniting the fuse and Lane provided the spark. He picked off a pass at the 14 and ran it back 86 yards for a touchdown to get Johnson County on the board with 7:57 remaining in the second quarter. A bad snap on the extra point, however, left the Horns trailing 7-6. The No. 8 ranked Longhorns in the latest AP 3A poll would use another defensive play to set up their second score.
Tyler Norris recovered a fumble near midfield after stripping the ball in the backfield. The offense would take over from there.Lane reeled off a 20-yard run then Troy Arnold bulldozed his way for ten more on a pair of carries. Lane capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown plunge. Arnold threw to Zack Eller for the two-point conversion putting the Horns on top 14-7 with 4:16 left in the half.
“It meant a lot of us to go ahead with all the halftime stuff going on,” said senior lineman Christian Krupsky. “We wanted to try and open up some running room for Nathan and Troy. I felt like we did a better job of that in the second half.”
LONGHORNS PROVIDE MORE BIG PLAYS
The game stayed that way until late in the third quarter. That’s when the Horns found their groove after the homecoming halftime show. The special teams got in on the scoring act thanks to another one of its speed merchants.
Zack Eller fielded a punt at the 24 and took it 76 yards for a touchdown with 1:11 left in the third quarter. Jared Kimble’s PAT made 21-7 heading into the fourth.
“Nathan and I are always looking to try and make a big play that will change the game,” said Eller. “We didn’t think they could score on us if we were able to put some points on the board. They had trouble throwing into our secondary, and I thought our speed hurt them some too. It’s a good feeling to win your last homecoming game as a senior.”
Johnson County wasted little time putting the game away during the final stanza. Lane collected his third touchdown on a 28-yard run with 10:47 remaining in the game. The defense once again rose to the occasion with Eller gathering his second interception at the 45-yard line. Lane did the rest by taking it to the house from 55-yards out with 7:45 remaining. Reserves flooded the field from there.
Lane ended the night with 290 all-purpose yards in addition to his outstanding play in the secondary. He gave credit where credit was due.”
“My offensive line deserves a lot of the credit because they gave me some space to run through,” said Lane. “I thought our defense stepped up and play well and the guys up front did a good job of getting pressure on the quarterback. Tyler and Weston both played well.”
Weston Throop had a big night on defense with ten tackles including two for losses. Tyler Norris added nine tackles a sack and fumble recovery. Eller provided a pair of interceptions in addition to 76-yard touchdown punt return. Arnold rammed the middle for 65 yards on 14 carries. Stacy Greer and Jared Kimble also contributed some outstanding play on the defensive side.
“We’re a team, a close group,” said Throop. “I am finally getting a good feel for the game, and the coaches have been very patient teaching me. It feels good to come out here and get a win on Friday night under the lights. We want to keep doing well and play another first-round playoff game at home.”
The Longhorns clinched a playoff berth with the victory. Kerley pointed to their depth has to be the difference in the second half.
“We’re deeper than they are and our depth wore them down,” said Kerley. “We were able to play a lot of players. The game was definitely won during the second half.”
The Longhorns will be off next week before going to Claiborne County on September 29 for another conference match-up.
West Greene 6 9 0 0 – 7
Johnson Co. 0 14 7 14 – 35